When the President announced that millions of undocumented foreign nationals would be able to “come out of the shadows”, in the speech given last night (November 20th) about the immigration reform to be taken via executive action, he was referring to the backbone of many industries in the U.S., manual labor, agricultural, domestic, and hospitality.
The U.S. hospitality industry has depended on, and in many ways, built its business model upon the use of cheap, manual labor. The cooks that prepare your food, the bar-backs who stock the glasses at bars or clean up, the maids who clean the rooms at the hotel, the field workers who pick the fruits and vegetables that end up in your favorite “Market to Table” restaurant.
The reality is that the U.S. immigrant, in most cases undocumented or overstayed, without legal authorization to work, has long kept the hospitality industry humming, whether we want to admit it or not. Often times, these workers are paid off the books, for fear of fines or to minimize taxes and widen the profit margin.
As of President Obama’s speech last night, those days and that business model, are soon going to be part of the past.
The E-verify system that many restaurant and hotel owners know about and are forced to deal with, was a product of the U.S.’s broken immigration system.
Now, through various measures included in the new immigration reform, many of the workers who are not authorized to work but are working, will be able to get their legal papers and work authorization. The time has come for employers to help their employees “come out of the shadows”, and create a healthier and more equitable and harmonious workplace, where all employees are paid what they legally deserve.
It is important to stress that employers will not participate in petitions on behalf of their employees. The employees must apply as individuals, and if their applications are successful, they will be able to walk into work one day and proudly announce that they can be put on the payroll, receive benefits, be a true peer of all their colleagues and co-workers.
The immigration measures, steps and filing and processes will be announced soon. Employers can advise their employees to consult with a qualified immigration attorney in order to determine whether they might qualify, to be able to finally “come out of the shadows.”